Ross Roche

Compiled by Ross Roche

Senior sports writer

Eleven uncapped players named in Springbok training squad

Players based in Europe, as well as the Bulls, will not be considered for the Boks’ first Test of the season against Wales.

Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus has named an exciting squad of 35 players for the team’s first official training camp of the season, which starts in Pretoria on Monday, where the focus will be on the opening Test of the season against Wales in two weeks.

The squad includes 11 uncapped players and a number of players from the 2019 and 2023 Rugby World Cup-winning squads.

The uncapped players in the squad are Jordan Hendrikse, Quan Horn, Edwill van der Merwe and Morne van den Berg (all from the Lions), Phepsi Buthelezi, Siya Masuku and Ethan Hooker (from the Sharks), and Ben-Jason Dixon, Sacha Feinberg-Mgomezulu, Neethling Fouche and Andre-Hugo Venter (all from the Stormers), who were outstanding in their respective competitions this season.

Players based in Europe will not be considered for the Boks’ first Test of the season against Wales at Twickenham, while players from the Bulls, who advanced to the semi-final of the United Rugby Championship, were also not considered for this squad.

Bok squad

The squad includes 19 forwards and 16 backs, including Rugby World Cup-winning flyhalf Handre Pollard and eighthman Jasper Wiese (who is serving a six-week ban), who have been named in the group and will be allowed to train with their teammates, but will only be available for selection after the Wales Test.

The only players in the group who did not participate in either of the Springbok alignment sessions in March and May respectively, as well as the virtual alignment camp hosted early in May, are Hooker and Van der Merwe.

“We selected a group of players featuring a good mix of youth and experience, and in terms of the young players especially, we believe they have the potential to make the step-up to top international rugby,” explained Erasmus.

“We’ve been following all their performances closely. We had the luxury of presenting our plans to them and getting to know them as individuals off the field at the alignment camps, and we are pleased with the enthusiasm they showed and willingness to learn.

“With the players based in Europe, the UK and Ireland not available for Wales, we anticipate that there will be a few players making their Test debuts in that match.

“But even for those who do not make the cut, having them in camp and getting the chance to work closely with them on the field will set them and the team in good stead as we prepare for this season and start laying the foundation for the 2027 World Cup in Australia.”

Immense value

Erasmus added: “We gained immense value by granting a few players a chance to prove what they can do at international level in the last few years leading up to the 2023 World Cup. Some of the players who made their Test debuts in that time were members of the squad that lifted the trophy in Paris, and we feel it is important that we continue blooding new players as we build toward the future.

“As things stand, we have a bunch of young players that already have Test experience and who know exactly how we operate as a team and what is expected of them at this level, and we have no doubt that we will reap the rewards in the years to come as we continue to increase our squad depth.

“As always there are a few unlucky players who missed out on selection this time, but the door will always be open for them to be called up if the need arises.”

Steven Kitshoff, Lood de Jager and Jaden Hendrikse are among a handful players that were not considered for the squad due to injury.

Incoming series

The Wales Test in London on 22 June will be followed by the Incoming Series which features back-to-back Tests against Ireland in Pretoria and Durban respectively on 6 and 13 July and a historic first Test against Portugal in Bloemfontein on 20 July.

The Springboks will then turn their attention to the Rugby Championship where they will line up against Australia in Brisbane and Perth before facing arch-rivals New Zealand on consecutive weekends in South Africa in Johannesburg and Cape Town respectively.

They will then make a short trip to Argentina where they will face the Pumas in Santiago followed by heading back to SA to finish their campaign in Nelspruit.

This will be followed by the traditional year-end tour featuring Tests against Scotland in Edinburgh, England in London and Wales in Cardiff in November.

Springbok training squad

Forwards: Phepsi Buthelezi, Joseph Dweba, Ben-Jason Dixon, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Eben Etzebeth, Neethling Fouche, Vincent Koch, Frans Malherbe, Malcolm Marx, Bongi Mbonambi, Ntuthuko Mchunu, Salmaan Moerat, Franco Mostert, Ox Nche, Evan Roos, Kwagga Smith, Andre-Hugo Venter, Jasper Wiese

Backs: Damian de Allende, Faf de Klerk, Andre Esterhuizen, Aphelele Fassi, Jordan Hendrikse, Sacha Feinberg-Mngomezulu, Ethan Hooker, Quan Horn, Cheslin Kolbe, Jesse Kriel, Manie Libbok, Makazole Mapimpi, Siya Masuku, Handre Pollard, Morne van den Berg, Edwill van der Merwe, Grant Williams

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Rassie Erasmus Springboks (Bokke/Boks)

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